If you’re anything like us, you feel like crap. This series has taken more out of you than any series in recent memory. The NHL playoffs take years off of your life, there’s no doubt.
And now we have a game seven. A win on Wednesday night means at least four more games. At least four more near heart attacks. At least four more chances to cheer on the Penguins. At least four more chances to avoid the Pirates.
A loss and life seems meaningless. After witnessing the Detroit Red Wings lift the cup on the ice at Mellon Arena last year, I sat in traffic wondering where my life was going to go from there. There was nothing more to look forward to.
It’s all on the line at the Verizon Center at 7 p.m. on Wednesday. Going back to D.C. feels like there’s no chance. A few things, though, give me glimmers of hope.
To start, I will point out how meaningless the franchise’s game seven playoff history is. Most of those games were played in the Mario Lemieux/Jaromir Jagr era. This group of Pittsburgh Penguins has never played a game seven together.
So throw the records our of the window. If you’re interested … it looks like this:
- The Pens are 5-4 all-time in game sevens.
- The Capitals are 2-4 all-time.
- Pittsburgh and Washington have played each other twice in games seven situations with Pittsburgh winning both.
- The Penguins are 3-0 all-time in game sevens on the road.
Again, none of that matters.
Nothing builds confidence for a team more than an overtime win while facing elimination. Make that an overtime win on the road and you’ve got a freight train rolling its way into the nation’s capital. However, I do see some hope for the Penguins.
There’s no question that Marc-Andre Fleury has underperformed in this series against Washington. Several of the goals he gave up in game six were uncharacteristic of what we’re used to seeing from ‘Flower.’
Looking back on his past, though, Fleury is used to pressure situations and has performed well in them. Jesse Marshall over at Faceoff-Factor pointed that out, citing several performances. Game two in the first-round in 2007, game five in the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals and game six of this year’s first-round are just a few of the times we’ve seen him step up and win games.
With his sub-par numbers, it feels like he’s due for a big game. He’s going to need to, because this game will likely come down to the goaltenders. We’ve seen that Simeon Varlamov is no joke, so whichever goalie plays better will likely be moving on to the Eastern Conference Finals.
It’s also no secret that the Penguins’ forwards and defensemen have outperformed that of the Capitals’ crew. For the most part, Pittsburgh has had better puck control and defensive play at even strength. If the Pens are able to get the same shot toal on Varlamov in game seven, which was 42 in game six, it’s hard to believe the rookie will stop another 38.
Pittsburgh has exposed a weak glove hand on ‘Varly’ and, with pressure infront of the net, he is vulnerable. Add to that a 2-for-5 mark on the power play in game six and the possible return of Sergei Gonchar and it looks like the Pens have alot in their favor.
It’s game seven, though. Stats mean nothing. Nor does momentum.
You create your own momentum in a game seven. The ebb and flow of this game is going to be out of control. Emotions will be running high. The first goal will be huge.
This will be the end to possibly the best playoff series since the National Hockey League returned from the lockout. Maybe even longer.
Strap yourself in folks and remember to breathe during the game.
LET’S GO PENS!
Chris | PPT